Summary: Learn the steps on the journey BACK to God.
“William Hinson, Sr. retired pastor of First United Methodist Church in Houston, the largest church in American Methodism tells the story about a time when he was going to Columbia, South Carolina to preach in a revival. He had not slept well the night before and had gotten up that morning and preached in two Sunday morning services. He went immediately to the airport to leave for Columbia. He had looked forward to sleeping on the plane but it just so happened that the person next to was a talker and so much for sleep. His plane arrived late so he was immediately picked up by a church member and whisked off to the church. He arrived at the church just a couple of minutes before the service was to begin and did not have the opportunity to freshen up at all. He felt yucky. As he preached he could feel his body swaying from fatigue. When the service was over he was led to the fellowship hall were a receiving line was set up to greet the visiting preacher. The line seemed to extend forever. Near the end of the line, a large man stepped aside and suddenly he saw his youngest daughter.
“His daughter was attending school in Augusta, Georgia and, when she heard her dad was going to be in Columbia, had borrowed her boyfriend’s noisy car and had driven for hours just to be with her dad and to talk with him about some things.
“They left the church and went and got some coffee and pie and then went to the hotel and talked for several hours. When she finally left he said he realized the most unusual thing. He was no longer tired. He had spent time with someone very special to him and found himself renewed.”
James Drake, “Genesis: The Road to Revival” http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=96561&Page=1
Another word for it is revival. Churches define it as series of worship services, but at its heart revival is renewal for individuals, the church as a whole, and, if it’s real, for the community. How does renewal come? It when we’ve encountered a person, Jesus Christ. Revival comes as we enter into God’s presence.
Do you know what happens when Christians don’t find renewal through the presence of the Holy Spirit? Individual believers either get bored or burned out. Churches decline and die out. The communities they’re located experience death and destruction. We need continuous revival. And I’m not talking about preaching services.
There is a road to renewal that can bring people back into the presence of God. We see this in the story of Jacob’s return to Bethel, which means house of God.
Before Bethel, Jacob and his family parked their tents in Shechem. That was chapter 34 which we studied last week. Remember the terrible story? Jacob’s daughter had a sexual encounter with the young man the city was named for and by the end of the story an entire city was massacred, plundered and enslaved. Maybe you caught this last week: God was absent from the entire episode. He’s not mentioned once. Jacob, his family, and the entire community suffered from the lack of God’s reviving presence. Fortunately, chapter 35 tells us the …
Steps on the Journey Back to God
At the end of last week’s story Jacob was in turmoil. After his sons attacked Shechem he was terrified that the surrounding people groups would unite and come after them. This result is typical of God’s pattern with His people. He let’s us go our own way for a while, but then, just before we can completely destroy ourselves and we’re desperate for escape, He show us the way back. In the story, God reminded Jacob that he needed to return to Bethel, the place where God appeared to him more than 30 years before and the place where Jacob promised to return. This tells me something wonderful about the nature of God: He’s on our side. He wants us to be renewed. This leads to the first step on the road back.
Believe that God desires your revival
Our God, is the God of redemption. It is His goal to recreate that which has been broken. The book of Romans tells us that one day every square inch of creation will be renewed from the curse of sin. If it’s true for inanimate creation, it’s most definitely true for God’s people. We must believe that God desires our revival or we won’t look for Him, we won’t listen, and we’ll miss His instructions about what to do.
As a Christian, it is not God’s will for you to be bored with the things of God or burned out trying to do for Him without His power. It is not God’s will for the local expression of the kingdom of God, namely the church, to deteriorate and die. It is not His will for communities to dissolve into darkness or lost people to die and spend eternity in hell. Jesus Christ is proof positive that God desires revival. The gift of forgiveness of sin and eternal life through the death and resurrection of the Son of God demonstrates that He is for us and not against us.